Since Mr. Rucksack and I will be married by a Justice of the Peace on the beach, we have a lot of leeway to be able to personalize our ceremony. And by we I mean I. I will be personalizing our ceremony. With a little input from Mr. Rucksack such as “No I don’t like that reading” and “Sure, I’ll list the things I love about you.”
We had one hell of a time finding someone to marry us—which, let me tell you, is absolutely the last thing I thought would be difficult. It’s one of those things I sort of took for granted. Originally, I assumed we would be married in a church. But after visiting several churches in our new town, Mr. Rucksack and I just didn’t find one that we really clicked with.
We then decided to have a good friend marry us, but quickly learned that Connecticut has strict rules on the people that can legally officiate a wedding.
We reached out to a few pastors and officiants in the area to find that they were either booked or away on vacation.
At some point, Mama Wallaby became a little critical that Mr. W and I hadn’t planned out our ceremony. Fair enough—we’d spent plenty of time talking escort cards, ice cream trucks, and reception playlists, but we hadn’t put onto paper any concrete ideas about how our ceremony would be conducted. So while Mama Wallaby was in town for a quick surprise visit in September, Mr. W and I sat down with her and his parents to discuss the ceremony deets.
Most of our ceremony would follow Protestant wedding tradition, but we planned to add a few Persian twists. Here’s the order we agreed to and presented to our officiant for his review:
After realizing my dream readings didn’t really exist, I began to search for wedding readings that were non-religious; sadly they were not from my favorite literature and also did not have the witty sarcasm that many readings have. Through all of my searching, it became clear that no matter how I changed the wording in my Google search bar, the same readings kept coming up. Although this initially made it difficult to choose, I soon began to notice that some of my favorite of the seemingly slim pickings were from children’s literature.
Now if there is one area of our upbringing where Mr. B and I differ, it is our aptitude for reading. See, I LOVE reading. Once I get into a book, there is no going back, and more often than not, I’m done with it in a matter of hours. Mr. B , on the other hand, hasn’t so much as picked up a book in the four years we’ve been together. He just.doesn’t.enjoy.reading.
As I tend to do when requesting Mr. B ‘s opinion on wedding-related issues, I chose my top three options (Mr. B always is a much a better contributor when not asked to just come up with ideas of his own accord) and let him choose from there. When I picked out the three options I would present him with, I figured he’d have absolutely no idea where they came from or why I picked them. But much to my surprise, he knew they were all from “kid’s books.” ( I promised him BONUS points for figuring it out!)
I had narrowed it down to three options, and was hoping he would pick his top two. Here our are top three:
Image via Wikimedia Commons
From The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
When choosing what would be read at our wedding ceremony, there was only one REAL qualification: nothing religious. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Mr. B and I are having (much to FMIL’s dismay) a completely non-denominational wedding. To me, if I include even slightly religious wedding readings, it defeats the purpose. Yes, I know that our wedding can be whatever we want it to be. But it is important to me to keep religion completely out of it. So when it came to choosing our readings, I knew I wanted to stay away from anything overtly religious. But there have got to be tons of awesome non-religious wedding readings, right? WRONG. At least I kept running into the same.darn.ones. EVERYWHERE! And the ones I found definitely offered some slim pickings…
As I was looking online through these readings, I was hoping to find a beautiful passage from one of my two favorite books: Gone with the Wind or Pride and Prejudice, you know, without having to re-read them (because I’m a busy bride and I definitely don’t have time for my favorite things, you know, like reading). Sadly, however, my searches were fruitless. I couldn’t find any passages suitable from GWTW, and could only find one from P&P, and it was (in my opinion) too short to fit the bill for what I consider a “reading”:
We’ve finally gotten around to writing our ceremony and, after almost a month of tweaking, I think we’ve got the meat of it done.
For probably 98% of it, I used readings and ceremony texts that already existed, but personalized them by mashing them together with other readings, changing the phrasing so it sounded more like “us,” adding my own words, and other such things. One reading that I used looked like this in its original form:
Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Take responsibility for making the other feel safe, and give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness, and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty, and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at some time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part that seems wrong. In this way, you can survive the times when clouds drift across the face of the sun in your lives, remembering that, just because you may lose sight of it for a moment, does not mean the sun has gone away. And, if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.
The line about not forgetting about the sun when there are clouds in front of it really struck a chord with me, but Mr. Wiz thought the phrasing was a little cheesy. I tried and tried to rephrase it myself, but couldn’t come up with something that still conveyed the same sentiment without the flowery language. Then one day, it hit me.
In our desire to DIY anything and everything we can, we’re also DIY’ing the ceremony. We’re marrying ourselves.
I don’t mean that I am marrying me and Mr. Wizard is marrying Mr. Wizard (how weird would that be?)—I mean that we are saying vows and pronouncing ourselves married without an officiant to do so. This is something called a self-uniting wedding, and is only available in Pennsylvania, as it originates from the Pennsylvania Quaker tradition. It is just as legal as a “regular” wedding with an officiant, except that it requires a different marriage license. With a traditional license, the bride, groom, and two witnesses sign, and then to make it legal an ordained officiant signs. With a self-uniting license, all that is needed is the signatures of the bride, groom, and two witnesses—no officiant necessary!
In Pennsylvania there are three options for who you can have legally marry you: a judge/justice of the peace, a city or borough mayor, or a minister/priest/leader of any established religious congregation. As atheists, we knew we didn’t want a religious figure to marry us, so that was out. Having the mayor marry us just seemed…weird. And we didn’t really like the idea of a stranger coming and telling us we’re married just because they said so. One of our goals for the wedding, besides all the stylistic/visual stuff, is for everything, especially the ceremony, to be as personal as possible, and none of those three options fit that bill.
I feel like 90% of what I am referring to as wedding planning is really reception planning. Since Mr. Cannon and I are having a pretty traditional religious ceremony, there hasn’t been a lot of planning in that arena, and for that reason I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it. I mean, yes, I know we need to pick out a few Bible verses and things, but in many ways it feels like the ceremony is almost an afterthought in the context of everything else.
But while looking through the sample ceremonies and thinking about what is actually going to happen on our wedding day, it finally hit me. I am most likely going to cry at the wedding. I was getting teary eyed reading through the sample ceremonies in the parking lot of Pizza Hut. A lot of people say things like, “Don’t get too caught up in the wedding—it’s all about the marriage!” By which I believe they mean that the wedding planning and the party and whatnot are one day of the rest of your lives, so don’t put too much stock into it. That hasn’t been a problem for me because the marriage is really the important part in my mind. Mr. Cannon will be husband forever! I can’t wait!
But within all of that, I hadn’t really considered the enormity of the actual ceremony. Obviously, throughout our relationship we have had many promises and obligations to one another, but they have mostly been unsaid and merely implied. The wedding ceremony is my chance to vocalize those promises, and vow to uphold them for the rest of my life in front of God and everyone. It’s a powerful moment. It’s being decisive and making a choice and having the confidence to say how you feel and what you want. Honestly, as patriarchal as the history of marriage is, the ceremony feels like it will be a very feminist moment. It’s saying, “I have the choice to marry any man or no man, but I choose you.” And it’s not an inconsequential choice—it’s a lifelong commitment. It’s saying, “I’ve changed my mind about everything from my favorite color to my faith in God dozens of times over my short life, but I know I won’t change my mind about having you in it ever.” In every way, it really is a huge, powerful, important, emotional decision.
When looking for readings for our ceremony, we thought about borrowing a page from well-loved books from our childhood. Mr. PaC found two semi-suitable Shel Silverstein poems, but I nixed them since they felt more appropriate for a graduation speech or anniversary toast (“Listen to the Mustn’ts” and “The Folks Inside,” respectively).
I’ve searched the world over for wedding-day readings. I have read all umpteen pages over at Indie Bride. Most of the common wedding passages are just not our style, so…I wrote a few of my own.
I don’t know why I did this. Actually, I take that back. I know why I did it, but I don’t know why I’m sharing these on the Internet. I guess as a way to show you all that you can DIY your ceremony too. If there’s no reading that fits you…make one!
So, here is my first go at a reading for the ring exchange. I focused on what the ring meant to me—in one way, it means very little. It’s just a material object. But what it symbolizes means everything to me. Then I made it rhyme because I was feeling crazy.
“And the tree was happy”
One of my favorite books of all time is Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. It is a heartfelt story that has inspired me all my life.
As we began planning our day, I racked my brain trying to find some way to incorporate this touching story into our celebration.
And then I saw it!
For the most part, Mr. S and I are on the same page when it comes to our wedding. There are a few things we’ve disagreed on, and we’re learning the art of compromise.
One of the things we’re trying to compromise on is whether or not we’re going to have any readings at the ceremony. Mr. S is against it. He wants the ceremony to be as quick as possible so that we can go on to the party. I agree that I want a quick ceremony—10–15 minutes, tops—but I think that we can devote a minute or two of that time to a beautiful, touching secular reading.
We’ve tabled the debate for now, but if we decide to go for a reading, here are some of my faves:
“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences. “
- Sylvia Plath
With our little beach wedding seven months away, I’ve decided to begin the inspiration search for my vows.
Having a writer for a fiance makes the vow-writing process an intimidating adventure. Over our ten-year love story, Mr. Ostrich has made my heart skip a beat with just a few words (and silly drawings) in birthday, Valentine, and holiday cards. He’s truly a master of the English language, and I can only imagine that his vows won’t leave a dry eye in the house.
When it came to planning for our actual ceremony, there were three main things to consider: the vows, the readings, and the music. I’ll be talking about the music later, so let’s discuss the vows and readings today, shall we?
The vows were the easiest part to nail down. We will not be writing our own vows, but instead using the traditional vows that have been used for many, many years before us. Both Mr. E and I are extremely lucky to have parents who have been married for over 30 years, and we wanted to use the same vows that they used on their wedding days and still ring true years later.
With the vows taken care of, we moved on to the readings. Although Mr. E is more spiritual than into organized religion, we decided to have one reading from the Bible and one from another source. I have always loved hearing 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 at weddings, so that will be our scripture reading.
The other reading took a little more research. Enter Google. I Googled “popular wedding readings” and read…and read…and read some more, until I found a couple that could be contenders. Some of my favorites included an excerpt from Nicholas Sparks’s book The Notebook as well as the poem “True Love” by an unknown author.
But nothing touched me like “The Art of a Good Marriage” by Wilfred Arlan Peterson.
In the past year, I’ve been to two amazingly beautiful non-religious ceremonies. I loved how personal they were. Having a non-religious ceremony can open the door to so many possibilities where the couple’s love can really shine through. I’ve seen it done through non-traditional readings, song choices and vows.
In the Catholic Church, you just don’t have as many options. You need to pick a reading from the old testament, a reading from the new testament, a reading from the gospel, and Catholic hymns. The one place we have been able to personalize is in the prayers of the faithful. Because we have to choose from approved lists, it makes for less personalization. I don’t want this to sound negative against the Catholic Church, because we chose to get married in the Church knowing this. Having our ceremony in the church was our top priority and meant more to us than having the option of total personalization. It actually means a lot to me to follow my Church’s traditions and repeat the same vows that many others have used before. I don’t want to take the ceremony lightly. While I want the ceremony to be about our faith, I want it to also represent us as a couple.
When it came time to choose the reading from the Old Testament, I struggled with many of the readings in the Old Testament related to men and women. I ended up finding a reading from the book of Ruth.
In November we will be meeting with the minister who will be marrying us (my uncle) to finalise the ceremony details, so by then Mr E and I need to have a fairly good idea of how we want everything to go. We have always wanted to write a large portion of the ceremony ourselves, so we have designated an hour every Sunday afternoon from now until November to focus solely on that. That way we can take our time, and really just enjoy the process without stress.
We had our first “date” for it this last Sunday, and we had so much fun talking about our ideas! I think it was the moment when we both realised, “wow, we’re really getting married soon…how awesome is that?!”
Anyway, the first “bits” of the ceremony we have managed to settle on are the readings.
We chose three: one that is very “me” that I will read to Mr E, one that is very “Mr E” for him to read to me, and one that is very “us” that a friend of ours will read at the end of the ceremony.